Some research publications may be so newsworthy, or relate so directly to current issues in public debate, that it is worth holding an event to bring together researchers, journalists and other interested parties.
Only organise events if they will add value. Consider what the media will get from your event that they wouldn’t get from reading a press release or talking to you on the phone. A free meal or a glass of wine is not enough incentive to drag a busy journalist out.
Think what’s in it for the journalist – could they get a different twist on the story, an exclusive interview, or maybe the opportunity to hear the reactions of people with an interest in the research findings? You should also consider the type of event and whether it suits them.
For individual or small groups of journalists, media briefings may be useful as you can tailor the information to meet the journalists’ needs.
It can also help you develop relationships with journalists and find out other areas of journalists’ interest.
Not everyone in the media will like briefing events as they are time consuming for both you and them. Media briefings take a lot of preparation on your part. You should research the journal and the journalist, produce a briefing statement, and prepare and rehearse what you are going to say.
You need to:
- agree the time available
- outline the areas you intend to cover at the beginning
- stick to the facts and do not speculate to avoid being misquoted
- check the journalists’ understanding of the key points and reinforce these at the end
be wary of going off the record.
Larger scale press conferences can be used to communicate a big story first hand to a target group – if the news is big enough to justify such an event.
A conference will provide a controlled environment for you to unveil your research findings and to deal with media questions. You can control who you invite and can have your own fall-back questions afterwards if the journalists are passive.
- be selective about which journalists you invite
- produce media briefing packs containing press releases and factsheets. You may also want to produce summary reports describing the research and discussions by participants. These can also be sent to journalists who cannot attend
- choose your speakers carefully. Your audience will want to hear short and comprehensible presentations
- stick rigidly to the allocated time
- ensure that presentations are visually clear, accessible and easy to follow
- aim to convey the intellectual excitement of your work without jargon
- state your conclusions clearly.